Often the most interesting things are best watched and not performed. This is most likeley the case in the curious food zoo of Beijing. THis is where we ate last night. Live scorpions crawling in the air on the end of skewers, silk worms barbecued, black hairy turantulars, sheep penis, sheep testicles and snake were all on the menu and all on skewers. Rows and rows of stalls selling skewerd EVERYTHING lined the streets. Unfortunateley, although it was amazing to watch, eating the selection there proved less enjoyable. Stall keepers tried to rip off any westener who passed and all the (normal)  meat skewers were undercooked and mediocre. But watching Cian eat a silkworm satay and chicken heart was worth all the dissapointing food!!!

The grossest part was that he loved both silk worm and chicken heart.....
Ick. The day started marvelously with a traditional breakfast of dumplings and rice milk with fried churros style sticks for dipping. We spent the morning walking around the beuatiful lake Hui Ha Ha. Its actually name was  Huiha but dad pronounced it funny and it was hilarious. For lunch we shared an anorexic duck on the lakes edge while we watched live ducks swim by. And then toTHE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN which was great.

Beijing is proving to be wonderful....And  curious
You know those days when you feel just a bit thing? Kind of down in the dumps and tired?

Well, yesterday I had one of those days. Maybe it was because we were stalked by various chinese "students" or everyone was looking at us funny because we were
1. White
2. Posessing three children
3. Motherless (mum is in Australia because she has to work)
You should see some of the horrible glares we got and there were people sneaking up behind us and taking pictures of us... Very very odd. But in any ase we kept walking through Tennaman square no matter how many people stuck plastic objects in our face or tried to get us to ride on a rickshaw.

Once we got into the forbidden city it was a lot more peaceful yet, I wasn't really very impressed. Yes it was very fancy and beautiful and royal but I just felt it didn't really live up to all the raps it gets. We spent the whole day there, looking at the "temple of heavenly love" and "room of eternal peace" and "palace of living kindness" (The names were hilarious)

Later we went to various pretty parks before getting a cab to somewhere we could have dinner. Did I mention that I had a really tasty dumpling for breakfast? Or that I didn't get any lunch?

Maybe that is why I was so grumpy....

But dinner really did cheer me up because the foos was DELISH!!!!

We had the famous Pecking Duck and yummy beans and lots of nice food. Afterward with full stomachs we walked along the "zoo street" which is basically a street full of people selling satay sticks with ANYTHING  and EVERYTHING on it  seriously, you could get sorpions on a stick, sheep penis on a stick, snake on a stick, seahorse on a stick, starfish or tofffee srawberries and apples!!!! Yummy yummy yummy yummy yum. (not the sheep penis and co. the toffee...)

Tonight we are eating there which will be interesting, but for now I am happy with the breakfast I am just about to eat- Rice porridge and pork buns.....
Another early morning, a cup of Jasmine tea, 1 pork bun and an hour long bus ride took us to the Great Wall of China. Then we had to get a chairlift up and up and up and up until we finally found ourselves oohing and aahing as we peered over at where the Mongolians would have helplessly stood thousands of years ago. But it was only as we strated walking along the wall that I really started to enjoy myself. It is reallyt hard to get you head around how big and long this wall really is until you have walked along it and seen it dissapear into the distance up onto some nameless mountain. It was really cold and snowy!!! so we took our time but the climbing up steep steep steps and exploring of small passegways in the various towers gets you warm quickly. The great wall of China is beautiful like a long dragon slithering up and down the mountains guarding its country from attack. This is why I have renamed it The absolutely fantastic, completeley wonderful and awe inspiringly superb wall of China. This name is very fitting because a) its very long and b) it has a lot of big happy appreciative adjectives in it. What was also great was our method of transport back down the mountainside and away from the wall: Tabbogoning!!!!!

Which is basically sliding down a raelly long windy slide in a go cart style sled which you can control the speed of. While Maeve and Cian went down at a fast but comfortable pase I sped down like a crazy loony on to much helium. This made Cian really mad especially when I crashed into him going 100 miles an hour....oops. The rest of the day wasn't quite so thrilling with Jade shops (I mean, "museums") Silk shops (I mean, "museum") and an emperors tomb which was beautiful and like a 27metres-below-the-ground-palace.

Oh, you might like to know that Nanny didn't come down in a go-cart, (but don't worry, she came down...)
 Incase you haven't already guessed this is the name of the first  restaurant we went to in Beijing which as, you already know from the title; is a very flavoursome and "fruity" name for a place which serves very un-flavoursome food. Infact this was the most tasteless dish I have ever eaten. A not so un-identifiable broth of... water? (thats what it tasted like) with some noodles floating in it and shredded chicken which they had managed to take out all the flavour of as well. The noodles, soup and chiken al tasted like... well nothing. Not as in "I've tasted nothing like this before" but as in breath in some air now and taste the sweet taste of USA California Beef Noodle King Restaurant's Chicken noodle soup.

How odd...

Some flavourless noodles later I was in my lovely backstreet hostel passed out on the bed after a long long train ride and early morning start. The rest of the day was spent adjusting to the cold and resting and settling in and also walking around the immediate area and getting a feel for the place while eating "Emperors balls" as we fondly call the chinese puff pastries. In the evening we went to see the Chinese acrobatics. This is one of the best performances I've ever seen in my life and easily the best acrobatic performance. Its hard to describe the magnifigence but it never lkagged on with brilliant costumes thrilling jumps splits and throws weird and wonderful acts of strength, endurance, dance and flexibility. So the day could really be summed up in a noodle; simple and full of flexibility.
Today being our last day in Shanghai, we decided on the best way to end our time here was by shopping!!!!

Incase some of you haven't been reading; we've been in Shanghai 3 days and have been having a blast. Read the latest 3 posts. (Which are all on Shanghai). You may notice our new red and gold colour scheme....

You like?

So today we went to Shanghai's most popular knock off market. It was full of Dolce and Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, basically all the usuals.  But there were a couple of good things there including a great embroided Winnie The Pooh suitcase Maeve bagged for $32 and some half length oxford style white leathers (shoes) for me...
Nanny also got some ballet flats and it was all very fun. The best part for me though was the haggling. Passing the calculator back and forth with new prices typed in was thrilling and funny. The over-drammatic "what!!!Thats ridiculous!!!" and "Shes only little girl, not much money!" made the whole thing like a big stage production.

Tonight we hop on the overnight train to Beiging....

I hope we'll have this much fun!!!
Today we spent a very enjoyable time in the Venice of Shanghai; Zhu Jia Jiao. We had a great time in the pituresque and charming town full of ridiculous souvenirs, casual locals playing cards on the riverside and bridges over asian style Gondolas.
I think about sitting in the rickety boat, in the most charming Chinese water town. Its like the Venice of Shanghai, red lanterns swing over my head as we float. The cafe we had green tea in was casual and relaxed on the water edge with bridges dotted around us. The air smells of rice and oil cooking. Old shuttered windows open to little cafes. The morning was -other than walking around and soaking up the atmosphere- spent at the lovely old post office which was simple and traditional. Very old and interesting. I got Manet a shawl with peacocks on it. This place is very peacful. The old town is beautiful and full of antiques and old riverside shuttered shops houses, and  tea houses. We had a really great time walking around town and soaking up the most amazing atmosphere.

All Things Round: My new glasses and the Shanghai Tower...-I can't get the photo to rotate-
Everywhere I go in Shanghai everyone is going on about The BUND, which they say with aw and appreciation. Before I was going "whats the Bund?" but today I went to the Big B. It could be described as the city center, but what you'd really call it I'm not sure...

OKAY its not that fabulous, especially since it's going under a 53 billion dollar facelift and is covered in scaffolding but we had a good day anyway.
We started off at a small obscure park full of meditaters and ThaiChi do-ers. Before taking a walk to the Dainto Lu antique market, which is pretty famous and GREAT!!!!
Most of the stuff is reproduction but it's all pretty cool and I walked out with some great antique round rimmed glasses and a spherical glass pocketwatch. Which makes me happy...
Then we headed down some hectic backstreets to another nice park which had a super strict police officer who blew his whistle till his face was red and screamed when anyone walked on the beautiful lush green grass, I could have sworn he was about to kill the little wondering toddlers. A short break was what we needed to prepare us for the Big B.

The Bund.

The afternoon took us to the Big B where we tried to glimpse the (supposedly) amazing river -under renovation-, had a really Bizarre tunnel travel which was pathetic and hilarious, travelled to the 54th floor for lunch (no go) then down 55 floors for lunch (no go), settled for Starbucks and watched the grey smoggy sky and city lights....

Now let me explain this tunnel which took you under the river and to the other side.
It was quite long and made to look like a really bad rollercoaster with a loudspeaker saying things like "meteor shower" and "assault underwater"
it was lame, hilarious and ridiculous. The weirdest thing I've ever experienced.

So Shanghai is going well and so is The Bund.

It's been a long long while...

I want to start by apologizing about my lack of posts but internet in Japan is expensive and hard to find. (The land of technology, I know)

Today we arrived in Shanghai, and no I haven't been to the great wall of China or anything but I liked the pun; a long long wall- a long long while!!!

hehe...Anyway, Kyoto was great and I learnt alot about traditional Japan I also saw A LOT of temples and I've come to a couple of conclusions about them:

1. There is this temple of kannon which houses 1001 statues of kannon I can't remember what its called but in anycase it involves A LOT of temples.

2. Temples involve A LOT of incense.

3. Kyoto involves A LOT of temples (more than 4000!)

4. Involved people from all over the world  (A LOT of people) come to see Kyoto's Temples.

5. I'm all templed out....

We also got to see one of the most beautiful castles ever. It was absolutely stunning and is called Himeji Castle. It took awhile to get there but it was worth it for the view, the beautiful gardens and the smoothly waxeed yet honestly old floorboards. From its tall tall figure and multi-shaped window it ozed oriental-ancient style.

Walking around west Kyoto is like entering a completeley new little rural tourist town with no urban-ness? in site. We started with a walk through a zen style temples garden (No we didn't go inside the temple) Nanny with a cofee in hand. We took a break with some roasted hazelnuts and sent Nanny off on a rickshaw to meet us at another temple (I KNOW!). We didn't go inside but just walked around and admired the beautiful tree line path famous for the colours of its autumn maples before going to an old style tea room for delicious hot chocolate, And I bought a beautiful Japanese artwork...

A couple more adventures and an upside down golden bridge later we were in my 2nd favourite place of Japan (my first being Tokyo); Kinosaki.
The Onsen Town... What a perfect place where it is  totally expected that you walk around the freezing cold town anytime in nothing but a Yukata (light cotton bathrobe) and I mean nothing. You are expected to put on your pretty yukata and wooden thongs and clip clop from spa bath (onsen) to onsen. An onsen thougfh is much more than a spa its a beautiful art that cannot be explained in thjis attempt at a brief post. So while taking time to check out thecoastline of Japan we spent most of our time in Kinosaki naked in the public hot baths (women and men seperated) relaxing. All the water is natural spring water here but they give it extra heat so onsen's are HOT. aNYWAY i LOVED IT SO LOVELEY AND RELAXoops...ing.

The next stop was Osaka as in Gwen Stefani "Osaka, Tokyo...you harajuku giorl, damn you've got some wicked style..." where we stayed in a very fabcy hotel because a friend of ours works there and gets HUGE discounts. It was really fab, great views beautiful room, a chocolate christmas tree, designer shops to ooo and aaaaa at and dead center. The highlights of our short stay in Osaka for me was the shopping especially on the 2 mile undercover walkway shopping area which was filled with young crazy clothes and american village (the harajuku of osaka...YAY!!!!) and a night spent with Raymond (our friend) and his beautiful family. He took us to his home city Kobi where we got to experience a locals view of the place eating at an obscure yakatori bar we never would have visited and had REALLY delicious food. All chicken from heart to liver to neck to breast and  cabbage it was really delicious. Except the liver...yuck. (I didn't try heart) Then we tried our luck at the local public foot onsen. Where you sit on the street barefoot with your feet in the hot troughlike water spot (pretty spiffy) checking out the amazing mountainside view all before dessert at his loveley house with his really nice family. We had yummy cake and japanese sweets. It was a late night or should I say morning but it was well worth it for the super time we had.

I'll really miss Japan, I absoluteley loved it from the crazy young ladies with blonde hair and puffy harajuku skirts to the traditional ryokan hotels. I absoluteley love it. We're staying in Shanghai; a small backpackers with really good taste. The buildings a converted french cobncession building with modernised interior (my favourite thing) brick warehouse modernised) and the area is cool a beautiful temple. I'm slightly worried about nanny getting run over in the crazy free for all traffic but I'm really excited to get to know China. Internet is dirt cheap here; basically free so hopefully I'll be posting lots.....

Now we are in Kyoto and are having an amazing time in the truly traditional city...

Our first afternoon was spent in the pleasure district; Gion where the geishas waddle in full traditional dress to and from engagements. Where you can find the most beautiful street in Asia and Maeve squealing about seeing a beautiful geisha girl.

Our second day was spent in a lot of temple looking at the 1001 statues of the 42-armed Kannon and his 28 protector gods all beautifully made and sculpted. Nanny was in a wheelchair as Cian pushed her along and we had a bit of a laugh,
(she doesn't really need a wheelchair) Afterwards Me and Maeve tried our luck at the lucky-dip style fortune telling and were given a protector god charm for long healthy lifes of little misfortune.
Then in the afternoon we went to the "fabric museum" Which was basically a huge beautiful shop (I wasn't complaining) although it would have been nice if they had some kind of museum....

Today began with a cultural stroll through another temple and its surrounding streets which was loveley and brought us to another temple where a Japanese wedding and some kind of childrens ceremony was going on.

Me and Maeve in Geishaland....yes that is us!!!
The wedding was beautiful, The lady had her hair done in a  huge traditional style and was wearing a big flowing white silk kimono...

The children were even more stunning in size 4 kimonos beautifully made with exsquisite fabric and gemmed combs in their hair. My heart honestly melted I just wanted to eat them all up but changed my mind a little later....

When I got to get dressed in the full dress of a typical Maiko (Geisha apprentice). It took an hour of wigs, makeup and tight tight corsets but by the end I was completely beautiful, unrecognisable and ....ASIAN!!!
Infact I was staring Nanny in the face and saying Nanny, nanny yet lokkihng straight at me she said "Where are you Niamh?" I'm here! I giggled and she finally gained slight recognition. It was fabulous I felt like a real Maiko; in pain and loving it.

Yesterday started with a big sleep in and aimlessly wondering around the hotel, lots of green tea and relaxation. After our huge day the day before (12 hours of non-stop walking) we really needed a rest.


Niamh went shopping!!!!!!!!!!

After a fair bit of pestering, Dad finally agreed to take me to Hiromi Sato`s gallery.We stopped off at Harajuku on the way which we`ve been to before but I really wanted to visit before we left Tokyo. Dad grumbled and frowned as I wondered from shop to shop grinning from ear to ear. In the end I left harajuku with a pair of very harajuku shorts coverred in frilly tulle and some printed rose stockings. Then we hopped on the metro and took the train to Shibuya to see the gallery...

The gallery was amazing and wasnt really a gallery at all but a shop filled with beautifully groomed Blythe dolls. I need to go now to catch a train to Kyoto...Tokyo has been great and I`ll write about it and my adventure to the gallery when I get there....